American Choral Music
How to Find Choral Music in the Performing Arts Reading Room
The Library's Music Division currently holds 20 million items that it serves through the Performing Arts Reading Room. This number includes over 100,000 choral works, an aggregate of copyright registration deposits, and acquisitions and gifts from European and American publishing houses. Throughout the years, choral music has been registered, selected and processed through a variety of methods and locating choral music items can be challenging at times.
Music copyright deposits are an important source for research in choral music. The results of the copyright law of 1879 brought eighty years of copyright records and deposits to the Library of Congress and ensured that all future registrations and deposits would come directly to the Library. Copyright deposits are the reason for the strenght of the holdings of music collections in the United States and account for the extensive volume of choral music items.
Many choral works, especially those registered with the Copyright Office since 1978 can be found by searching the Library of Congress Online Catalog (http://catalog.loc.gov/) through which you can search by subject, composer, or title, as well as browse by call number.
A great number of items can be found in the card catalog housed in the Performing Arts Reading Room, but the music found in either the online or card catalog is only a very small portion of those items actually held in the collections. Also, many music copyright deposits are shelved by their copyright registration number and the only bibliographic access to this material is through the Copyright Office online catalog.
Whether cataloged or classed, choral sheet music is initially divided into sacred or secular, then by vocal range, number of voices, a cappella or accompanied, and even by text for seasonal use. Like many music materials in the general collections, not all published choral music is selected for cataloging, but is given only a class number and a filing initial.
To request a search for choral music that is not found in the catalogs, you must provide the composer’s name and a description of the genre and medium of performance for the music sought. A reference librarian will then determine the appropriate call number. You may also submit a reference question via the Performing Arts Reading Room's Ask A Librarian service. Your query should include as much information as is known about the piece--for example, composer, title, genre, and medium of performance.